IT IS NO NECESARY TO INTRODUCE HIM. NEIL MURRAY IS ONE OF THE BEST BASS PLAYERS IN ROCK AND ROLL. WITH A GREAT EXPERIENCE THAT INCLUDES ALBUMS AND TOURS WITH WHITESNAKE, GARY MOORE, BRIAN MAY, ETC. THIS IS THE FIRST PART OF A LARGE INTERVIEW WE DO A MONTHS AGO. ENJOY IT!!!
NOTE: This interview was after the Gary Moore death.
What are you doing now, Neil?
My main work is in the Queen musical We Will Rock You, which has been playing for almost 9 years in London at the Dominion Theatre, 7 or 8 shows a week over 6 days - we get Sundays off! I've probably played those songs 2,500 times now, to about 3 million people! I also play a few shows with Monsters of British Rock, with ex-Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody. We mostly do classic Whitesnake songs from 1978 - 84, and the band also features guitarist Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker and many others) drummer Harry James (Thunder) and singer Chris Ousey from Heartland.
Which are your principal influences like musician?
I like many kinds of music, and when I was learning the bass, I practiced lots of styles apart from rock - blues, jazz, funk, R&B, pop etc. I was influenced a lot by Jack Bruce of Cream, Tim Bogert (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus) and all the bands of the British blues boom of that time, such as John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Chicken Shack, Fleetwood Mac etc. Later I got into funk bass-players quite a bit, then Jaco Pastorius from Weather Report, so I tend to play differently to how most rock bassists play, and I'm not very interested in just playing the root note of the chord; I'd rather try and do something more interesting, if there's the opportunity. I used to copy guitarists as well as bassists, and try to play exactly what they drummer was playing too, so I wasn't only influenced by bass-players.
Why you choose the bass guitar to play and not other instrument?
I played classical piano & trombone first, and I was a drummer as a teenager, though not a good one. I was naturally drawn to the bass, and I often listened to the bass on records. There was a bass at school that I started messing around on, and it seemed to be the ideal instrument for me, so from age 17 until becoming professional at 23, I was playing a lot of the time, mostly along with albums. My personality suits the bass - I don't want to be a guitarist, showing off at the front of the stage!
You played with Whitesnake for 8 years. How is it to work with David Coverdale and which is your opinion about him?
I don't know how David is now, as he has lived in America since 1985, and I haven't spoken to him since 1987. At the beginning of Whitesnake he was a very normal, down-to-earth guy, although he'd been in Deep Purple, but he changed a lot over the next 10 years, becoming much more sophisticated and educated, and he became much more the leader and frontman of Whitesnake, whereas in the beginning it was very democratic and friendly. He was a great singer and a charismatic frontman, but I am not such a fan of Whitesnake as it is these days. Whitesnake in the early period was a very fun band to be part of - I don't think it can be as much fun now.
Do you have any favourite album with Whitesnake? I love all its discography, but I like specially Saints An' Sinners.
I tend to prefer Ready An' Willing and Come An' Get it, but each album there are some good songs and some which aren't so great. On Saints An' Sinners, the songs were starting to sound rather the same as on previous records, and Ian Paice was not playing with his usual fire.
You recorded 1987 with David and John Sykes. Did you think at any time that this album was multi platinum?
We certainly hoped it would be successful, and certainly a huge amount of time and money was spent on the album, so the record company needed to promote it heavily to make back their investment, and they had lots of faith in David's potential to be a big star. It was much heavier than previous Whitesnake albums, so it was possible that many older fans wouldn't like it very much.
After the recording of the album John and you weren't in the group, why?
John wanted to be co-leader of the band with David, which David didn't want, and David planned to mix the album in LA with the producer Keith Olsen, without John there. John flew over there from London and went to the studio, and had a big argument with David, and left the band, which I think was a big mistake. The drummer on the album, Aynsley Dunbar, had quit when he and I stopped getting wages about 9 months before the album was finished, though I was still a member (unpaid) - I re-recorded some bass parts in London when John Sykes was doing some guitars, just a month or two before he left. In January 1987, it was easier for David to start fresh with a completely new lineup, as it was only me and him left. I was in London and he was in LA, maybe if I was able to move there things would have been different, but it's difficult when you have no money at all. David wanted Rudy Sarzo in the band, but I wasn't fired and I didn't quit; I just wasn't in the band anymore.
Do you know the new Whitesnake line up and Good to be bad album, do you like it?
I don't really know the recent lineups very much, though the members are all very good musicians. I haven't listened to Good To Be Bad, or seen Whitesnake play for many years. It's a bit too heavy and American-style for my taste, though Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach are fine guitarists.
You have worked with Gary Moore, what do you think about your time with him?
I first played with Gary in Colosseum II in 1975-76, when he was playing fast and furious jazz-rock. In 1982, I joined his band along with Ian Paice, and then Gary's style was much more straight hard rock. We got on well, and we had very similar taste in music, though he likes the musicians to be just his backing band, compared to Whitesnake, where I had more say in the music and other matters. He's a great guitarist, though I think people get confused when he changes his style of music often.
I heard some of John's songs in early 1982, thought they were excellent, and produced various demo tapes for him over the next couple of years. At the beginning, we had a band called Badlands with John Sykes on guitar, but then John joined Thin Lizzy, I joined Gary Moore, and a few months later John Sloman also joined Gary for a time. John is very talented, but I think his songs were sometimes too sophisticated for what the record companies were looking for, and he wasn't quite enough of a conventional heavy rock singer. I think John should have had more success than he's had, but I guess not everyone can be a star.